Tackling Fashion's Water Pollution Problem

Stephanie Steele Sunday, 1 August 2021

In this lesson we take a look at the ways in which the textile and fashion industry is accountable for water pollution, and subsequently the effects of water scarcity.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic even hit, there were 2.2 billion people globally who lacked access to safe drinking water, and 4.2 billion people without safely managed sanitation. This means however that 3 billion people across the world do not have basic handwashing facilities in their home, and 2 in 5 healthcare facilities worldwide do not have soap or alcohol-based hand rub, all of which has had ramifications on the spread of the virus.

Outside of these general hygiene rights we have come to take for granted, water scarcity has been estimated to displace 700 million people by 2030, meaning no water for sanitation and for drinking to live a healthy life. And though this may appear as if the textile and fashion industry is not liable for these issues, it is both in the ethics of production facilities and in the sustainability of farming and fibre production that we see water being neglected as a finite resource. Yes, water is renewable due to the science of evaporation and rainfall, but as our water sources become more and more polluted, and sewage treatment infrastructure is not maintained, the water that falls on us and the land is full of harmful substances.

Thumbnail image: GAZIPUR, BANGLADESH - 2011/02/25: Every day, 9-year-old Jashim collects pieces of cloth from the liquid waste of the dyeing industries [Probal Rashid/LightRocket/Getty].

In this lesson you will learn:

  • How fibre and textile production contributes to water pollution
  • What water scarcity is, and why fashion should care
  • How fashion production affects biodiversity
  • What microplastics and laundry have to do with water pollution
  • Actions you can take to improve water use and cleanliness across your supply chain
  • Solutions that the fashion industry is implementing to support SDG #6

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Next Lesson

  • Managing The Life Cycle Of Your Fashion Product

    with Stephanie Steele

    In this lesson we will look at key areas where you can lower your impact in consideration of product life cycle.

    It is clear that in every single product we own, there has been water and energy used and lost within its creation. So, the most sustainable thing we can do is to not make anything at all. As a fashion business or creative entrepreneur that isn't going to happen for you. What you can do is consider the full life cycle of your products. Take care in lowering production impact by reducing water and energy use, design for how your customer will use the item, and plan for how the item will likely be discarded.

    Thumbnail image: Noah Buscher on Unsplash